Vulnerability to depression may be hardwired
The brains of people who suffer from depression are known to be physically different from other people’s. But are these differences the result of the depression?
No, says Daniel Weinberger at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. His team has shown that people with a gene that predisposes them to depression have these differences in their brains long before they become depressed.The researchers scanned the brains of over 100 people who had never been diagnosed with depression. They found that those with a short variant of the 5-HTT gene have brains that resemble those of depressed people. This variant is associated with a higher risk of anxiety and depression.People with the short variant had less grey matter than normal in both the amygdala, a region that processes fear, and the perigenual cingulate, which helps make sense of emotions (Nature Neuroscience, DOI: 0.1038/nn1463).(Source: Issue 2499 of New Scientist magazine, 14 May 2005, page 18.)